The Bodily Fluids Game

By far the most successful teaching activity I’ve ever come up with – the most fun, the most memorable, and the most pedagogically effective – is the bodily fluids game I use in Week 4 of my Gender, Sexuality and the Bible module. Having shared it a couple of times with friends and colleagues, I thought it would be worth posting here so it’s more widely available. The goal of the game is to get people thinking about bodily fluids and the way that disgust functions within particular systems of gender, sexuality and society. The game consists of 16 cards, each with a different bodily fluid on it (it’s a non-exhaustive list so you could always tweak it). I’ve laminated mine but you don’t need to:

The game has two parts:

  1. In small groups, arrange the bodily fluids in order from the most to the least disgusting
  2. Take a look at the rankings you’ve produced in some groups. What makes some bodily fluids more disgusting than others.

Once we’ve played the game I talk the students through some of the theoretical arguments made by people like Mary Douglas and Julia Kristeva about gender, disgust, the self and society; but extensive testing suggests it’s fun to play even without the academic component.

Help me with a course on Medieval Europe

Next year I’ll be co-teaching a module on ‘The Making of Modern Christianity: Medieval and Reformation Europe.’ I’ll be taking the medieval section of the module (I can’t tell you how glad I am not to have to teach Luther). I want to use the module to look at a number of important themes from that period: changing forms of empire; the emergence of race; the role of Islam and Judaism in forming European Christian identity; transformations around gender, sexuality and the body; struggles for control over knowledge, power and property that made possible the later emergence of industrialisation, colonialism, and capitalism; and, crucially, the role of Christianity in all of the above. I’m trying to figure out how best to do that around some of the key events of the period: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the trials of witches and heretics, the emergence of monasticism and then the universities, the Investiture Controversy, popular piety including pilgrimages, cults of the saints and relics, that kind of thing.

So, help me out! What has gone well or badly when you’ve taught in this area before? Which primary texts are great for reading with small groups and which are horrible? What are the best and most interesting books on the period (500-1500ish)? I’d especially appreciate recommendations of primary or secondary texts that are written by people of colour, texts on the relationship between Christianity, Islam and Judaism in that period, interesting accounts of the role of the emerging university and any discussions of ideas of empire in the Middle Ages written with an eye to the development of European colonialism.